<b>A Beautiful Day in the Strangerhood</b>

A Beautiful Day in the Strangerhood

Dispatches from the
front lines of human interaction...

All about us nobody people and our funny little stories and the feelings we all have.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Kind of Town

It was a sunny Thursday afternoon in August. Absent the occasional article assignment, I sat in the corner of my kitchen, my office, surfing the web. The location: South Amboy, NJ, a town that comprises one square mile that juts the brown waters of the Raritan Bay. From the shore, you can take in the splendor of Staten Island.

At around four o’clock, music suddenly blared from the street below. I craned my head over the plants lining the windowsill but I couldn’t make out Mystery DJ; all I got was a glorious view of the white vinyl siding on the building next door. DJ paused “Save the Last Dance” to heckle someone visiting the ATM. He yelled into the mic, “Hey! Get me a couple of $20s!” Later, during “Born in the USA,” he called to someone entering the local pizza joint, “Grab me a slice, will ya?!”

I immediately emailed Woody, who’d made the journey from Brooklyn the previous year for the Memorial Day parade. He’d come to revel in our small-town majesty: the high school bands, Girl Scout troops, Little Leaguers, the long line of refurbished mail trucks. I knew Woody would eat this up. He responded instantly: “Who is this guy? You must go introduce yourself.”

I refused to go downstairs, saying it was more romantic imagining The Entertainer: He was stocky, with dark brown hair and a mustache. He wore cut-off shorts and one of those “South Amboy” t-shirts one can purchase at the local Foodtown. I believe he drove a pick-up and that, most likely, it was red. It was definitely GMC or Ford. No imports for this guy.

I certainly couldn’t fault DJ for being a Frank Sinatra fan, but I figure the reason he kept playing Sinatra, and Springsteen, and Bon Jovi, is because they’re all from Tha Jerz. As the grand finale that August afternoon, he ad-libbed in Sinatra’s “Chicago”: “My kind of town…  SOUTH AMBOY is!”

My kind of town. South Amboy is.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Heroes for Hire

“I believe it was General Grant who said when you're surrounded and outnumbered, there's only one way out…Surrender.”
—Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, The A-Team

I grew up in the mid-late-‘80s, the era of A-Team syndication. My mother and brother LOVED the A-Team and other such shit reruns on WPIX, Channel 11. I hated them. But I was forced to watch them.
I know the questions that could possibly arise from such a statement:
“Why was she ‘forced’?”
“There were no other pastimes to pursue?”
“Why such tortuous reminisces?”

But whatever. I did a lot of things I didn’t want. As we all do. My primary MO: Be pleasing. (I imagine my older sister Ann Marie, an A-type personality, does not appear in such memories because she had, indeed, found other pastimes to pursue.)

Picture the rec-room: I don’t know if Mom and Rob really sprawled themselves on the couches while I uncomfortably parked myself on the floor; but the fact that the memory plays in such a way speaks volumes about the pecking order in our particular family unit. Mom and Rob were their own A-Team. And I didn’t quite rate.

The feeling to convey: uncomfortable, confused agony.

The A-Team’s tagline: “Heroes for Hire.” Col. John "Hannibal" Smith and his team (at the end of their stint in Viet Nam) were framed for robbing the Bank of Hanoi (which they had done, but under orders). They were sent to a US military prison and, of course, they escaped. They became heroes for hire while on the lam, working as good-guy vigilantes. Hannibal, an expert at disguises, was their leader. “Face” was the team’s con artist and lady’s man. “BA,” officially "Bad Attitude" (and played by ‘80s icon Mr. T.), was their mechanic and intimidator. And "Howling Mad ‘Murdock,’” was an expert pilot, and a certified lunatic—they broke him out of a mental hospital whenever they needed him for a mission.

Yes… I know.

(And I only know this because of what I found on IMDB.com. I recall some of these details—perhaps two of the names—but not much else. I must’ve been daydreaming.) Mom and Rob fucking Loved. This. Stuff. The title credits, the whole bullshit in between, and the end credits. And for some reason I felt compelled to sit there, on the floor, with them while they watched. These reruns on Channel 11.

The feeling is that of four o’clock on a Saturday… There I was trying to make myself comfortable on the rec-room floor (to give credit where it’s due, the concrete slab was covered by a thinning carpet), while Mom and Rob stretched out on the couches. I don’t recall anyone really talking, ether about the action onscreen, or the lack thereof, off. But I didn’t necessarily express my own discontent. Middle children never do such things.

It was an understood appointment: A-Team on. Now. Microwave your potato (top with bleu cheese dressing, if available) and meet in the rec-room. First one on the couch claims it. (The oldest-in-the-front-seat-of-the-car rule clearly did not apply to the couches in the rec-room. Perhaps if I’d had forced the issue, it might have been another story. But middle children never…) I figured Rob could benefit from the comfort more than me. It was a survival-of-the-fittest scenario and I clearly did not have the goods.

I guess I could’ve gone outside but then, what? Be by myself? I wasn’t one to knock on neighbor kids’ doors to ask if they could come out to play. I only did that in the presence of Ann Marie or Robert. Middle children never really go out of their way for affection. They take what they can get. Even when it’s watching a shit rerun on Channel 11, when—outside—it’s 70 degrees and perfectly breezy. Ideal for making mud pies in the back yard. Perhaps with some neighbor kids with whom siblings helped secure hang-out time.

So I sat there. I tossed and turned. Offered to fetch orange-juice ice-pops. Perhaps I made mocking comments throughout, who knows? I probably did. And I might’ve gotten some laughs. All I know is that I hated it. And I hated me. And I wanted to get chips and dip, something to make the time pass quickly until we could, maybe, I don’t know…

But there were no chips or dips in the house.

And the middle child never comments on such things.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What's it gonna be?

I haven't heard from my doctor's office as of yet. So I have no idea whether in 19 hours I'll be in the city getting prepped for surgery or... still sleeping.

Hey, Doc? My whole week's kind of waiting on you. Am I having Thanksgiving dinner or am I staying in bed?... I'm kind of hanging on your word.

What will it be: Surgery or turkey?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"You should go home and go to bed before a piano falls out of the sky onto you."

- As said by Sarah to Judy at around 7 pm earlier this evening. It has been one of those days...

I entered my doctor's office at 5:30 tonight for a 5:45 appointment. I made it into the room about an hour later... humiliation and hilarity ensued...
The bulk of this post (over 3K words--yes, I can go on...) has been deleted. I didn't erase it when told it was "too graphic" and "too sad." The deletion occurred 17 seconds after friends from work located this cheesy blog and started rooting around. There are some things that are too personal, I've found...
I'll keep the end:

John and I had decided to have a nice dinner after the whole debacle this evening. Time to relax. Obviously, we haven't had much time for that lately. I ordered a cocktail and took a sip to find the glass was broken. There was actually glass floating in it. John asked the waitress for a new drink for me and she huffed and brought back a new glass which was clearly my old cocktail poured into it.

I brought my issue to the bar where the bartender graciously apologized for the situation, threw out the glass in a big show, and poured me a new cocktail. Double on the vodka. Nice.

It was at this point that Sarah proclaimed via cell phone that there was a piano out to get me and I had to get home immediately. We took the train. And now we're here.

We came home to a letter from our mortgage-holder saying it’s received a cancellation notice from our insurance provider. Apparently the home we live in is presently "vacant." Lovely. Now I have to deal with this even though I straightened this out with the insurance company two weeks ago (at the onset of mercury in retrograde) .

John just called from the other room: "I think I have a headache."

"Oh, baby, I'm sorry," I respond, displaying a bedside manner not found in many from the medical profession.

"Take an Excedrin," I say. "They'll work on headaches. For other things... not so much."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Some People from Movies that I’d Like Be Friends with (if they were real)

The guy who owns the candy store, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He seemed very knowing, didn’t he?

Dr. Lesh, Poltergeist. The woman with the red hair and glasses that came to investigate the house before the psychic midget lady. When she took a swig out of that flask and offered it to Jo Beth Williams, I knew she was a caring, compassionate soul. Even at the age of seven.

The Psychic Midget Lady, Poltergeist. Hello? CREEP-Y. But cool. She could tell me how many hearts my house has.

Michelle Pfeiffer’s character Stephanie, Grease II. Wait. Scratch that. I wanted to BE Stephanie. There was nothing cooler than when she climbed up that ladder and sang “Cool Rider.” I even admired her nervous breakdown at the school talent show after she heard Maxwell Cauffield (the nerd masquerading as the cool rider) had died. The girl won best in show for her breakdown! (Watching Stephanie, I couldn’t help relate with blonde Annette’s loser little sister with the skate board.)

The entire Corleone family, The Godfather. I’m partial to the old days, when Vito and Clemenza started out by stealing that rug; I would’ve liked to have been in on that action. And Vito was so fair, as long as you remained loyal. I wouldn’t have minded babysitting unruly Sonny. I would’ve done it for free.

Jeremy, the leader of the rats, The Secret of Nymn. Although it’s a cartoon and I know rats can’t talk or steal power, even at a young age I was inspired by his knife-fight with the rebel rat that slayed Nicodemus. He totally kicked ass. Oh how I wanted the widow mouse Mrs. Brisbey to end up with Jeremy. Was it only I who noticed some sexual tension between the two of them? It still irritates me is that it’s not really clear what happens at the end. Are they gonna be together or what?

Michael Moore, Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11. Since I was kicked out of college and have smoked many joints (activities which wouldn’t necessarily exclude me from the presidency), I probably won’t be president one day so there’ll be no reason for him to document my moves and, thus, resent him. Whether you agree with his politics, you have to admit we all want the Michael Moores of the world on our side.

Parker Posey’s temp-worker character, Clock Watchers. When she screams, “We’re like corporate orphans, only I don’t want to be a part of their family!” I imagine going to happy hour with her and commiserating on our awful situation. When she got fired, I would’ve packed up my pencils and walked out with her.

Kermit the Frog, any of the Muppet Movies. He doesn’t realize how cool he is and that’s endearing. Kermit: sweet, calm and always in charge.

Melanie Griffith’s character, Working Girl. I think after all she’s been through, she’d be an excellent boss. Perhaps she could hire me as her assistant. And then maybe I’d get reimbursed for post-graduate courses.

Dawn Wiener, Welcome to the Dollhouse. Let’s face it: I am Dawn Wiener. Perhaps together we could elicit more members for our “special people club.”

Billy Bob Thornton’s character, Bad Santa. We all want someone to tell us like it is.

Betty Davis’ character, Baby Jane, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? My friendship with Baby Jane wouldn’t be genuine I have to admit. If I were friendly with her, I totally would pretend to be all into making her a star again, playing piano while she sang. I’d call the liquor store for her and order all her bottles of scotch and gin. After she passed out, I would sneak upstairs to free her invalid sister. Then I could be friends with Joan Crawford’s character, the real star anyway.

Max Fisher, Rushmore. He’s just so industrious. I should’ve joined more clubs.

Han Solo, Star Wars trilogy. He’s Han Solo.

Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones trilogy. He’s, well, Indiana Jones.

Dr. Richard Kimble, The Fugitive. He’s… you know.

Any Harrison Ford role.

Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She’s somewhat self-involved and I don’t have to imagine how infuriating that can be. But then I also don’t have to imagine how much fun it’d probably be to bask in her presence.

Daddy Warbucks, Annie. I could make him love me as a daughter. He’d take me out of the orphanage and treat all my friends to a huge party during which he and I tap dance. And then I could ride in a helicopter with FDR and Eleanor. (After we sing a reprise of Tomorrow in the Oval Office.)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My Blood is Good

I currently have no less than four bites of unknown origin on my ankles and feet. They're really itchy. They're also really tiny, clearly not spider bites. It's evident when a spider's paid me a visit: Spider-bite sites on my body swell to the size of the average fig.

Apparently certain sections of my home are also home to spider colonies. They get me when I'm either upstairs or in the backyard for eight minutes. I believe they've also established residence in our car, as I've ended up with figs on my legs after long trips to Long Island. My husband refuses to acknowledge the situation and its detriment on my well-being, willfully ignoring the SPIDER WEBS permanently affixed to the INSIDE of our windshield. "It's fine," he tells me. "Spiders are actually good." After such proclamations, I can generally be relied upon to respond something to the effect of: "I'm going to get a exterminator and you'll have nothing to say about it. Just try to stop me!" And then he reminds me that we refuse to have an exterminator anywhere near our property because we love our helpless, angelic cat and we're concerned about effects on the environment. I regularly conclude that bi-weekly spider bites (throughout the whole year) are part of my lot in life. They're actually part of my charm. Once I come to terms with this, I feel fine; I'm accepting. And then my husband can be counted on to downplay the size of my spider bites and the pain associated with them.

Incidentally the spider car is named "Bug II," the natural replacement to my first vehicle, "The Bug Mobile." The name *had* nothing to do with anything other than the fact my family's nickname for me is "Bug." Now, however, I've recognized this connection as a fate manufactured by the gods. It's one of my "cosmic jokes"--a phrase I believed I coined as a teen (and of which I was inordinately proud).

Evidence of such jokes? I seem to have gotten all the “bad” genes in the family; I'm the runt of the litter. I am literally allergic to daylight. Welts occur if ever the sun meets an uncovered piece of Judy-flesh for an extended period of time. Ann Marie and Robert? Tanned and gorgeous. Further, they're both math geniuses and I'm, um, the "creative" one. I'm also the least athletic of my siblings. And I'm the one in the family that gets all the bug bites. Neither Ann Marie nor Robert, to my knowledge, has ever complained about having 22--count 'em, 22!--insect bites on one leg. (One summer my father and I took to counting my bites. We stopped after counting that one leg.)

I remember telling Sister Anina (my grade school’s librarian and keeper of the supply closet) that I had “22 bug bites on my leg!” She remarked that it was because I had “sweet blood.” Hmmm. Sweet blood. I liked the sound of that. Perhaps it had something to do with my dad's mom? My paternal grandmother's maiden name was Bloodgood. She was of Native American lineage so we always assumed the exotic name derived from our Lenni Lenape heritage. Ann Marie has begun doing genealogy research and it appears that the name might be of Dutch origin, an interesting notion but not one to explore in this moment. Wherever the “Bloodgood” comes from (I trust Ann Marie's discipline to chart us back at least several hundred years), the name has a particular, poignant meaning for me.

My blood is good. At least to insects. All sorts of insects.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

We kid because we love

President Bush mistakenly poked fun at a vision-impaired reporter's sunglasses Wednesday.

American Consumerism

There was something about today that made me feel the need to make a list of things I want to own in the very near future. Perhaps it's because I'm American or perhaps it's because I'm a female; I don't know. I refuse labels. I do know the list part of it, however, is directly related to my OCD. Product names, descriptions, prices and URLs were meticulously noted on first a post-it, then in my notebook, and then in an email I sent to both my husband and my home address so that they are available for anybody, at any time of the day. I used my best handwriting for the notebook entries and formatted the email in crisp and clean 10-point Arial.

Having several gift cards in my possession, namely $30 to IKEA and two $25 cards to Staples, I thought it best to take some time and peruse their websites for the better part of the morning. At IKEA, I located a mattress pad for the pull-out couch in the living room, frilly/flowery-type wrapping paper because I am out (I need to be stocked of all varieties), and a planter for the backyard that we can place right in the sightline between our porch and our neighbors who make no secret of their fascination with our every activity. I also found an orange fabric ottoman. Typically, I get to lay on the couch while John sits at the other end (my legs usually plopped upon him). I imagine the sight of the foot stool, chosen specifically for his pleasure (and the fact that the shade is PERFECT for our living room), will delight him no end...

At Staples, I located a leather chair for the computer desk and a rolling mat for the floor (only $15.97!). I was sure to also include on the list a set of casters (made of aluminum, 5 for $29.99) just in case my husband determines we do not actually need to spend money on a new chair; that we should just fix the one we have. He'd be right, of course. I don't mind either way, I simply want to purchase something. And quick. There's no greater pleasure than bringing new products home, setting them up, and then taking pictures of said items in their new surroundings. It can be argued it's all about the documentation...

I sent my list to John around 11:30 this morning with the subject line "some things we might want to consider." I was excited to hear what he thought of each possibility. What would he think of putting his feet up at night? Would he think the planter big enough? Pretty enough? Will he want to go ahead and buy a new chair or make a project of attaching the casters? Did he notice that my items were all clearly labeled and described and all appear in 10-pt Arial (as always)?

John's response two minutes later: "Hi Beb. We’re obviously experiencing different levels of workload right now. I will check these out later..."

He is clearly not a female, nor OCD. Sometimes I wonder if he is even American.